Judge goes for the middle ground in Scanlon prison sentence
The prosecutor argued for a longer sentence and the defense attorney wanted a shorter sentence, and in the end the judge almost split the difference.
Sharon Scanlon, the former assistant finance director in Shelton accused of stealing $914,000 in city funds, was sentenced Jan. 30 to four-and-a-half years in prison to be followed by five years of probation.
She was facing a jail sentence from three years to seven years, based on a plea agreement reached late last year.
Judge John Ronan also ordered Scanlon to make restitution to the city of Shelton, which should involve almost $231,000 — based on theft insurance and retirement plan forfeiture having covered the rest.
Prosecutor: Repeated, conscious decision
During remarks in court before sentencing, State’s Attorney Kevin Lawlor said a longer sentence was justified because the illegal behavior wasn’t a one-time act, but was a repeated, conscious decision taking place over an extended period.
“This isn’t a mistake...[like] I did something one time and ruined my life,” Lawlor said.
Instead, he said, Scanlon on a monthly basis would write unauthorized city checks to herself and go to the bank to deposit them in her account. “She chose to make that decision,” he said.
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Click below to read how Sharon Scanlon addresses the court, admits guilt, apologizes for her actions:
Lawlor also said the theft hurts the reputation of all government workers, leading people to believe that public workers are dishonest.
“The people of this state and this city [Shelton] deserve to have honest public servants,” he said. “They deserve better.”
Lawlor said a sentence in the longer range of the plea deal would have “a deterrent effect” on anyone else thinking about committing similar crimes. “She needs to be punished severely,” he said.
“This is a serious case — a violation of the trust of the taxpayers of the city of Shelton,” Lawlor said.
Her lawyer: ‘Ashamed’ of what she did
William Dow III, Scanlon’s attorney, said a shorter prison term was appropriate because Scanlon has lived a good life outside the thefts, has admitted her guilt, and was facing medical and family financial difficulties when the crimes occurred.
“Ms. Scanlon has never denied responsibility for what she has done,” said Dow, who admitted she had “set up a template” to steal the funds on a regular basis.
“She certainly knew it was wrong,” but stealing the money became “a course of conduct she became committed to,” he said, emphasizing he wasn’t implying the illegal behavior was an addiction.
Dow said Scanlon was “ashamed” of what she did, and for that reason she has been afraid to leave her house for much for the past year and a half. He said some of her own family members now shun her.
She has “lost the respect of the community,” he said, and earning back her reputation in some way will “take a long, long time.”
Dow also pointed to the sentences handed down in other recent court cases involving theft by public officials and an attorney, and asked the judge “to go to the low end of the [prison sentence] guidelines.”
Judge: ‘Planned, deliberate, reoccurring’
Before handing down his sentence, Judge Ronan said Scanlon’s actions had hurt the city of Shelton, her family and her friends.
“Your scheme [to steal money] occurred over a long period of time,” he said. “It was not a spur-of-the-moment decision.”
The judge later said, “It was planned. It was deliberate. It was reoccurring.”
Ronan said while Scanlon and her attorney argued the thefts were primarily motivated by a desire to help support her family, the end result was just the opposite.
The actions “hurt your family, your community, your reputation,” he told Scanlon.
Earlier, Lawlor had made a reference to the fact that Scanlon now is “in the process of losing her home,” most likely due to financial problems.
Ronan said he accepted that Scanlon was remorseful, and hoped she could rebuild her life in some fashion when released from prison in a few years.
He said he hopes Scanlon eventually can “make amends and be the person you were before” the financial crimes occurred.
Her attorney: ‘She’s a good person’
During an interview after the sentence was announced, Dow said he thinks Scanlon will be able to get her life together in the future.
“Sharon Scanlon is a good person,” he said. “She’s a good person today, and when she gets out of prison she’ll be a good person.”
Dow said Scanlon simply didn’t know how to deal with the financial pressures facing her family, and therefore made bad decisions. She “didn’t have the tools” to properly address problems in her life, he said.
“She found herself in a very small world and she couldn’t break out of it,” he said.
Dow said the four-and-a-half-year prison sentence seemed acceptable from his standpoint. “It’s not inappropriate,” he said, when compared to the sentences given in similar cases in Connecticut.